7 Easy Ways to Help Students Manage Social Anxiety Post Lockdown
May 31, 2021
5 min read
As a result of the ongoing lockdowns due to COVID-19, children were left studying at home and employees working from home. However, somewhere between all this, we lost our inner social animal.
Chances are, most of us only spoke with our housemates, handled meetings and lectures over zoom calls, and had lengthy conversations with our cats. And now most of us dread leaving our safe space, our sanctuary, the comfort of our home (and bed).
Though some people have managed to easily get back out into the real world, some haven’t. Many of us have even started enjoying the time at home and are secretly hoping to never socialize in person again. However, as calming it sounds, it could be a huge tell-tale of social anxiety.
In a nutshell, social anxiety or social phobia, is the chronic fear of social situations. Agreed, many people get anxious in social situations. But when this anxiety starts interrupting your daily activities, self-esteem, academics, among others, it can be rightfully called social anxiety.
Some common symptoms of social anxiety are:
Since many students already suffer from social anxiety, the lockdown has made it even harder for them. According to the American Psychological Association, 41.6% of college students alone suffer from social anxiety disorder, thus making it the topmost concern among college students. Complete isolation from the outside world has only added fuel to the fire.
Social anxiety can negatively impact not only a student’s social life but also their academics, career, and their relationship with themselves. Thus, it is extremely important to help them with it.
Just because the lockdown is lifting does not mean they need to immediately engage in full-fledged parties or social activities. Students may feel like they have to “get back into the scene” as soon as possible but this does not work for everybody. Make them understand that it is okay to set boundaries and say “no” to certain invitations if they are not feeling up for it.
On the other hand, ask your students to start socializing from a smaller group of people. Once they feel comfortable with that, they can move on to a situation where they might feel slightly more anxious, and so on.
It is extremely important to take some time for yourself every now and then. Practicing breathing exercises, journaling, maintaining your physical health, among others are ways to anchor yourself when you are not feeling your best.
In simple terms, no one can make an exact estimate about how things might go in any particular situation. Thus, if you know some breathing exercises, they can help ground you when things get too overwhelming. Some of the best breathing and meditation apps today are:
You can also refer 40 Essential Meditation playlist by Spotify. It features some of the most calming songs.
Do not expect yourself to be good at socializing after a few attempts. Students these days already exert pressure on themselves for innumerable things. It is important for them to realize that feeling anxious in situations they were fine with before, does not make them any less. Sometimes, winding down and giving yourself a break is okay.
Social anxiety in itself poses so much stress on an individual and that makes it especially important for us to be kind to ourselves.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is just as important as taking time for yourself. Students might feel like avoiding social situations altogether and avoidance will only lead to increased social anxiety.
It might seem extremely exhilarating and tedious and scary. But, challenging yourself is a crucial part. Don’t worry, no one’s asking you to invite yourself to a party. Baby steps go a long way. Simply ask a colleague how their day was or how they’ve been. Small talk seems hard too, we understand. But once these skills start building, they will only help you feel more confident and in control.
While in a social situation, anxious people tend to focus too much on themselves. “Are those people staring at me?”, “They are probably laughing at me”, “Are they talking about me?”. Chances are, most of the times the answer remains, no. However, this does not stop you from feeling self-conscious.
Every time you start feeling those things, look around. You will slowly realize people are too busy with themselves to even notice others. Get lost in the people and the conversations around you, take the emphasis off of yourself and think about the bigger picture.
Intrusive thoughts usually tend to creep in once to start enjoying a little too much for your anxiety’s liking. It will say things like:
Try back-answering to all these. Push these thoughts aside and assure yourself with rather positive statements like:
For some extra encouragement on a regular basis, check out this list of 15 positive Instagram accounts to brighten up your day!
If you still feel like social anxiety is interrupting with your daily life, do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. There are numerous support groups (online and virtual), therapists who work remotely as well as in-person. We have listed some resources here that we think might be of help.
On another note, as a teacher, it is crucial for you to maintain your mental health as well. Refer to this article about practicing mindfulness to prevent teacher burnout to learn how.
To conclude, let us remind you that wanting fewer relationships is also fine. It does not make you an alien to the others. And hey, some conversations with your cat can actually turn out to be pretty damn interesting.